A few years ago there was a bed bug infestation in the northeastern part of the US.  I know, eeeeewww.  There was so much coverage in the media, it was hard to miss: “Beware of the permanent visitor!  Bed bugs are coming to get you!!”   I admit,  I fell victim to the hype.

These little critters have always freaked me out.  From hearing the phrase as a child “don’t let the bed bugs bite!” to now as an adult witnessing the madness they bring, I cringed with each new story I heard about.  I especially hated this one: a friend of so-and-so got bed bugs, had their apartment fumigated and then a month later, they’re baaaack.

You are confined

It was strange; all of a sudden I became obsessive about checking where the bed bugs were concentrated, and I avoided those places at all costs.  This included crowded malls, movie theaters, New York City altogether and other dark busy venues (they don’t come out in light, after all).

I thought about them somewhat regularly; this little bug had taken over a small corner of my sanity.  And for those of you who don’t know me, I’m not an alarmist.  I’m an easy going girl, but I built my own crazy fort of fear.

It held me back in ways that I am almost too embarrassed to say.  I avoided going to the movies for two years ( yes two years! And I love going to the movies!)  I panicked about staying in hotels because who knows who was there before me and what they brought with them?  I checked my own bed pretty regularly for any signs of infestation.  It was madness, I tell you.

It got me to thinking: was this a real fear?

When I dug deeper, I realized my fear was about those bugs taking over my apartment and not being able to get rid of them.  I realized it wasn’t so much about the bugs but it had more to do with my ability to take care of myself and fear of failure.

You see, I love my apartment.  It’s a one bedroom haven nestled on the third floor of my building, surrounded by trees– a proverbial treehouse.  It’s quiet, I have a loft and I can paint there.  It’s easy to have friends over for drinks if I want.  It represents everything I love about my life–simplicity, joy and fun.  It has given me the space to explore, grow and become more myself.

As I looked at the situation from this point of view and realized it wasn’t about the bugs per se, but more about my fear of loss, I relaxed a little.  I began to see how absurd the whole thing looked, but acknowledged that it was a normal fear, just disguised by the bugs.  (It also made me more more compassionate towards those with OCD or anxiety disorders.  I can’t imagine the pain of living like that all of the time.)

So as I talked myself off of the ledge and rationalized that none of my friends or relatives had gotten bed bugs, that the haunting stories were always from the media + ‘people-who-knew-people’, I slowly let the fear dissipate.

I realized I had never even seen a bed bug in person.  My gripping fear now looked silly to me.

I saw how this pretty irrational fear was holding me back from living my life and from fully enjoying it.  I was worrying about a scenario that hadn’t happened and probably wouldn’t.  Can you relate?

To move forward, I used my fear as fuel.  I stopped looking at media about the critters.  If anyone started talking about them around me, I would change the conversation.  I stopped giving my energy away.  I sent love to my apartment and I tamed my monkey mind of obsession.  And you know what?  It worked.

Even if that bug fear pops up a little now and then in my psyche, I remind myself that it’s not about the bugs, it’s about being able to handle what life throws my way.  I can handle it.  

I stopped wasting time and energy on something that I couldn’t control and it has made all the difference.

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